Ms. Afridi made clear which side she was on beginning in the last election.
PART I* Was necessary for Part II to be understood.
To fully appreciate the role Ms. Afridi played in preventing a vote on the only real solution to save our businesses, the Jobs Survival Act, I needed to detail the dire state our immigrant businesses were in and the discrimination against our owners by their own government. One of the city’s greatest government conspiracies and collusions was created to cover up the true dire state and abuses of our city’s small business owners, especially immigrant family owned.* This rigging to deny economic justice for over a decade was so successful that few New Yorkers or small business owners even knew the Jobs Survival Act existed, bottled up in committee. Even hidden by unethical lawmakers were the despicable acts of abuses and miserable treatment against our small business owners. The American Dream of countless businesses was being destroyed while City Hall put on a charade of worthless acts while praising the worth of our small businesses. So successful was this rigging and charade that no lawmaker has ever been held accountable for the small business crisis they willfully ignored and helped make worse.
With the powerful lobbies buying ambitious lawmakers, and running the show at City Hall for only their member’s benefit, I am not surprised that no Mayoral candidate realizes their small business platforms are an insult to small business owners. All were influenced by the same bad actors who benefited at the expense of the destruction of our small business owners.
Real Record and Role of Ms. Afridi exposed.
The first clear action showing which side Ms. Afridi was on was during the 2017 election. As Director of policy for The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development she helped to create United for Small Business NYC. Billed as a coalition of community organizations across New York City fighting to protect New York’s small businesses its voice played a major role in the narrative for small businesses in the 2017 election. The problem for small business owners was the narrative was right out of the real estate lobby’s playbook. No mention of the Jobs Survival Act, never calling for giving rights to commercial tenants when their leases expired, never admitting a crisis existed in NYC for businesses, no commitment to stop the closings of businesses, never holding lawmakers accountable for doing nothing to save even one business. Instead, this fake group was offering a campaign to distract away from the real root causes of our small business growing crisis.
They only pitched a false narrative that the real problems facing small businesses were: to many fines and over regulations by agencies. Never any mention of the primary cause of the small business closings or the other major problems facing small businesses, especially immigrant owners: such as shorter leases of sometimes month to month, paying high landlord’s property taxes, no say in the new rents or illegal extortion of mostly immigrant owners. This coalition never represented small businesses and was nothing but a shill to cover the failed records and rigging of corrupt lawmakers. Failed records like that of Mayor de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio’s record on addressing the small business crisis was disgraceful and an embarrassment to good government. He did nothing to save one business and in fact joined in the rigging to stop the Jobs Survival Act. The same bill he once championed as a Councilman because the bill would address all the major problems facing businesses.
United for Small Business NYC continued after the 2017 election over the years to give credibility to worthless legislation being passed off as helping small businesses. Today, its main appearance was again during the election period. Like in the last election, this year they are again promoting the real estate lobby’s narrative and giving political cover for the many corrupt lawmaker’s miserable records of discrimination and denying economic justice to small business owners. Their website* will show little but adulation double talk and worthless solutions to none existing problems. The usual solution to everything is throwing taxpayer money at a new cooked up un-needed program. What good are any small business initiatives if the businesses continue to close?
Ms. Afridi creating a Coalition to speak for small businesses that only promotes a status quo outcome speaks for itself.
The most anti immigrant hearing in Council history!
Ms. Afridi would play a key role in a hearing orchestrated by the real estate lobby with one goal; stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act. After 8 years of denying any hearing on the Jobs Survival Act, the empty store blight forced the Council to hold a hearing. But Speaker Johnson turned the hearing over to a powerful lobby to organize. It will go down in history as the most anti democratic and anti immigrant hearing ever held. The who’s who of corrupt lobby cronies came to give credibility to the lobby’s false narrative. There have been 11 previous hearings on our bill over 34 years and the city’s business community’s testimony supporting its passage has dominated at every one. Not this hearing with the lobby fully in charge. Even though I helped write the original version of the Jobs Survival Act and all seven amendments of the bill over the years, as well as, worked with every past Chair in selecting the best prime groups to testify in support of the bill, the new Chair Mark Gjonaj refused to meet with me.
Would the 2018 hearing’s outcome be the same as the last 2009 hearing’s outcome? Unanimously selecting the Jobs Survival Act as the best solution to stop the closings of businesses and calling for a vote.
On Oct 22, 2018 the hearing room was filled with real estate lobby supporters to testify against the Jobs Survival Act. The BIDS, Chambers, SBS, and fat cat organizations whose members got rich from the speculation would give testimony opposing the bill but none would offer a solution to stop the closings and end the crisis. And none would give a rational reason for not passing the Jobs Survival Act.
Ms. Afridi was given prime time to give her testimony*, which she made history three times with her testimony. In the long 36 year history of 11 hearings on the Jobs Survival Act , Ms. Afridi was the first community group to every testify who opposed the bill! Afridi, “ However, we do not support the Small Business Job Survival Act as it is currently written.” What followed as the justification for opposing the bill was double talk, nonsense, and outright misinformation on the bill. An example, Afridi, “the bill functions by creating a complex system of individually negotiated mandatory arbitration between the commercial tenant.” The Jobs Survival Act has been amended seven times to make it the simplest process possible. The lease expires, the tenant has a right to renewal and meets with the landlord to negotiate terms, if mutual agreement cannot be reached then an arbitration process happens to resolve disputes. As for her statement,“ system of individually negotiated”, how ridiculous her statement, because for hundreds of years every commercial lease negotiation has been individually negotiated. Another example of disinformation and outright fear tactics is this false statement, Afridi, “However, it’s important not to create a mechanism that does damage the health and viability of the commercial rental market of other neighborhoods as well. I’m going to speak a little bit also about the unintended consequences on some types of vulnerable small businesses. The central provision of the bill binding mediation and arbitration could risk making immigrant-owned small businesses even more vulnerable to the threat of displacement.”
Shameful fear double talk, “more vulnerable for immigrant owned businesses” is just more nonsense, Every business is vulnerable when their leases expire if the tenant has no rights! Like everybody else, Immigrant businesses are vulnerable because they have no rights! Ms. Afridi is opposing the only bill to give them rights.
How shameful is her false narrative at a time our immigrant family owned businesses are targeted for extortion by unscrupulous landlords demanding cash to remain in business. Or immigrant owners who built up businesses over many years to only be given month to month or one year leases. Or immigrant owners forced to pay their landlord’s growing property taxes on top of growing rents. Why isn’t she talking about finding real solutions to stop these real inhumane acts against immigrant families?
Ms. Afridi has the best platform at this hearing to demand a vote on the Jobs Survival Act to end all these injustices and abuses against immigrant family owned businesses but instead she gives false and fear misinformation to stop a vote. The misinformation given by Ms. Afridi at this hearing is far too great to detail, read her double talk testimony.
As a lifetime small business advocate and provider of services for immigrant small businesses I can say with certain confidence that Ms. Afridi is either the most incompetent and has a profound ignorance of the workings of immigrant small businesses or she testified only for the benefit of the real estate lobby’s agenda and to create more future money pit programs that produce nothing but high paying jobs for politically connected people. There is no other explanation for her wasting this precious testimony and opportunity to expose the dire state of our city’s immigrant family businesses.
The second first from Ms. Afridi’s testimony was her recommending Commercial Rent Control as an alternative to the Jobs Survival Act. In the long 30 year plus battle for our bill with hundreds of business advocates and groups testimony given, never once has any business group ever recommended Commercial Rent Control. Ms. Afridi, “So, why aren’t we talking about commercial rent control? Where did this ridiculous suggestion come from, and why now at a hearing on another bill? No small business owner in NYC wants commercial rent control because they do not want their rents determined by any government involvement. Ms. Afridi does not know what she is talking about, or more troubling, she does know and does not care of the negative impact on the immigrant family businesses.
To understand what Ms. Afridi’s promoting commercial rent control really means is to understand why I must give a warning to our immigrant community of her potential appointment or effluence in a Wiley administration. Firstly, Commercial Rent Control gives no right to renew leases for the tenant. Which means the rent is irrelevant if the landlord has the full authority to throw you out of business when your lease expires. Which also means with the tenant having no right to renewal and if they wish to remain in business, they will pay whatever the landlord demands. It is a fake bill that sounds good until you look closely. Secondly, NYC has 230K small businesses in over 58 neighborhoods with each block demanding a different rent structure. Even on the same block, the location of the business will demand different rents. I have negotiated and renegotiated over 55K commercial leases for my immigrant members over 34 years. NYC can never have one commercial rent factor for the entire city. Yes, it is ridiculous and absurd and obviously only a lobby created Trojan Horse. Another good reason against Commercial Rent Regulation is that after 20 years of a hyper real estate speculation creating an insane commercial rental bubble, businesses could not survive with these insane rents as the “floor” for rent increases. The greedy landlords would love it, having the rental market they artificially created be a viable guide, but it would be the end of small businesses as it has already been the end of thousands of businesses forced to close.
The third first from her testimony was her being the first person to recommend adding many other none relevant services to the bill. On the one hand she testifies the bill is complex and falsely claims is expensive for tenants and somehow giving immigrant owners rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms and longer leases will harm them. Now she recommends “resources” to add to the bill, a bill we spent decades making simple to deal only with the commercial lease renewal process.
In three decades of testimony on our bill, no other person ever recommended adding anything to the bill. LENA AFRIDI:” Yeah, I would say, you know, add something in there to make sure that people are getting the resources that they need.”
Ms. Afridi likes to play the minority, immigrant, communities of color, women owned, single mom, poor lower class, and low-wealth card to justify creating taxpayer funded programs claiming to help those underserved. But in truth, all worthless to address the real problems of small businesses and only producing grossly overpaid bureaucrats giving political cover for corrupt lawmakers. No moe programs are needed or wanted by small businesses, just give them rights and leave them alone to do what they do best, create jobs.
Ms. Afridi came into this hearing to be a voice for the real estate lobby and not the immigrant small business owners who needed one.
Ms. Afridi testifying at the only hearing in 8 years on the only real solution to save our immigrant small businesses and jobs and her opposing this legislation that has 28 sponsors, while she gives false reasons for opposing our bill, tells me she has been coached to deny economic justice to our immigrant owners. Her recommending Commercial Rent Control tells me she will willingly sell out immigrant families’ future. Her final statement shows me I am right in knowing who Ms. Afridi really stands with.
“ We’re committed to finding solutions to keeping New York small businesses thriving. While we deeply believe that immediate measures must be taken to curb the displacement of New York small businesses, more information is needed in order to better understand the impact of SBJSA and to prevent any unintended consequences. Thank you.”
Her statement is word for word out of the lobby’s playbook!! No person or organization, including opponents of our bill, in 30 years of testimony has ever testified that we are “ committed to finding solution to keeping New York Small businesses THRIVING! If Ms. Afridi believed our small businesses in NYC were thriving, why did she go to testify? If she believed the bill created unintended consequences, which are never detailed, would be worse than being extorted, given month to month leases, rent gouged and being forced to pay their growing landlords property taxes, then she should explain what they are and how they are worse for the business owners. Yes, all nonsense from her. A question for Ms. Afridi, “ if a business owners gets a 30 day notice to vacate the business the owner’s family scarified and built up over 40 years, what unintended consequence from our bill would be worse?”
Let me set the record straight on what I know better than anyone in NYC. The majority of owners of our small businesses are, and have always been, immigrant family owners! Conservatively, 64-68% are muti- generational immigrant family owned businesses. Yet, in NYC they are treated as second class citizens, their contributions marginalized with no real input into making economic policy. Why would the government discrimination and deny economic justice for the “backbone of our economy?” Because to address immigrant owner’s real problems would mean regulating commercial landlords and putting the brakes on the world’s most “perfect real estate investing environment”. It would mean, regulating the biggest campaign donors at election time. The very same identity that created our small business crisis totally controls economic policy at City Hall. Therefore, the lobby orders the lawmakers they bought at election time to cover-up the consequences to the immigrant families and to society. City Hall’s collusion with lobbies created a giant charade to look and sound like government is doing a great job with many services and resources etc. to help our small businesses. City Hall’s politics of doing nothing in the face of a growing economic crisis only made it worse.
Ms. Afridi is from Queens, which is the most immigrant diverse community in America. At this sham hearing I am not surprised that she is ok with speaking on behalf of immigrant families before a sham committee with NO Queens members! Another first for Ms. Afidi, never before at 11 hearings on our bill has there never been a member of Queens Council present.
Some hope was given at hearing!
One positive came from this sham hearing orchestrated by the lobbies. That positive was a commitment from Speaker Johnson to amend the Jobs Survival Act so it did not provide protection for bigger Fortune 500 type companies and then move the bill to a vote.
Would Ms. Afridi work with Speaker Johnson’s team to speed up the changes to the Jobs Survival Act so it could be voted on and begin saving our small businesses and end their crisis?
NO, what I feel Ms. Afridi was doing behind closed doors instead of helping amend and move the Jobs Survival Act to a vote would be one of the greatest betrayals of our city’s immigrant community.
While Speaker Johnson’s staff was constantly telling the media and advocates “we are tweaking and fine tuning” the Jobs Survival Act as pledged by the Speaker at the Oct 2018 hearing. The truth was the Speaker had no intentions of keeping his word and the bill was never amended and moved to a vote, and never will be under this lobby controlled corrupt government.
What was happening instead was another bill was secretly being created with the real estate lobby’s influence to be a substitute for the Jobs Survival Act.* In November 2019, over a year since the Jobs Survival Act hearing, CM Levin and CM Lander introduced and pitched another bill calling for Commercial Rent Regulation. Code for Rent Control, but with NO right to renewal for tenants, which means NO RIGHTS. Firstly, this new law is against Council rules to have two bills with the same intent. Both address the commercial lease renewal process and both address the rents. This poorly veiled charade bill had only one purpose, to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act.
The bill would have to go to Albany for approval and was never intended to see the light of day. I only mention this anti democratic and anti immigrant bill because of finding out whom was really behind its creation. At no time in the long 30 year battle for our bill have there ever been two bills in play at the same time before the Council. This bill was only a show of power and control by a lobby over our lawmakers. * Intro 1796 https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4230081&GUID=B2FF2D24-F642-42A1-BEBB-D8D59E079D99&Options=ID|Text|Attachments|&Search=1796
Who betrayed our immigrant family owned businesses by promoting this lobby Trojan Horse?
A candidate for city council contacted us to tell us a staff member of CM Levin, the lobby’s bill’s prime sponsor made a statement at an event that she wrote the Commercial Rent Stabilization Bill. This candidate wanted us to verify this statement. Because the bill was made in secret with no hearings we did not know, but assumed it was the lobby. No lawmaker would introduce any bill dealing with regulating landlords without lobby control. I asked her to ask the staff person, Elizabeth Adams, who helped her form the language for the bill? The candidate sent an email to Ms. Adams asking her who gave her the details for the bill? This is the link from the response from Elizabeth Adams of who was behind helping her write the Commercial Rent Stabilization bill.*
Not surprising to us, the same team that testified at the sham hearing opposing the Jobs Survival Act and recommended The Commercial Rent Control to substitute for the Jobs Survival Act: United for Small Business Coalition and ANHD which means Lena Afridi. Afridi, testimony, classic bait and switch, “So, why aren’t we talking about commercial rent control? The bill that is currently in place right now or that’s being suggested right now is-- it might help in the far west side, but it might have completely deleterious consequences in Bushwick, in Jackson Heights, and is it worth it for putting immigrant small business owners on a line for a select few minority of small business owners. Any solution that we come up with can’t put immigrant small business owners, communities of color, low-wealth communities at risk for the sake of, you know, just passing something. Whatever we pass has to be equitable. It has to be fair. It has to have real steady consequences that are going to have an impact over a long period of time. So, this bill, you know, parts of it might work, but across the board, it’s not going to work for everybody.”
Ms. Afridi laying the foundation for the later substitution of the lobby bill. Appalling betrayal of desperate immigrant families.
Over the years there have been many people opposed to our bill. Many lawmakers lying about the bill to hide behind and as an excuse to not taking any action to vote on our bill. But none, except for Lena Afridi opposed the bill, lied about the bill and recommended substituting another bill, while pretending to represent immigrant owners. Why is that so damaging to the future of our bill and the future of every small business owner in NYC? This policy director for politicians, if successful and another bill is substituted for the Jobs Survival Act that did not give the rights needed to negotiate long term leases that allowed a reasonable profit then the 30 year war would finally be lost. Lost with the desperate small business owners and their employees the big losers. Also lost would be the American Dream for countless immigrant families. A warning must be made because the stakes for all New Yorkers could not be greater, if the wrong appointments are made by the new Mayor. If a bill is substituted for the only real lifeline to save our businesses then eventually all businesses will fail.
There is BUT ONE OPTION to restore our economy. Businesses must have the right to renew long term leases, rights to negotiate fair lease terms that allow a reasonable profit and protection from rent gouging and paying their landlords property taxes. If these rights are denied the backbone of our economy will break and trigger double or triple property taxes in the future and an economic catastrophe in NYC like never before seen. The stakes are to high to remain silent of the risk of appointments of economic policy makers with hidden agendas and loyalties.
Sung Soo Kim, recognized as the city’s leading small business authority and advocate for over 3 decades. The “Godfather of immigrant businesses” is the founder of the ol